Building A Backyard Greenhouse with the Greater Denver Urban Homesteading Group

backyard greenhouse, Greater Denver Urban Homesteading Group

The plastic went on quickly, then we attached it with wiggle wire. 

On October 12, a group of 10 or so intrepid plant geeks got this greenhouse framework enclosed! Building A Backyard Greenhouse with the Greater Denver Urban Homesteading Group

Attaching the plastic to the frame was “wiggle wire,” which I’d never seen before. Clever idea:

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What a fun project!

Ever Heard of Solar Gardens?

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Clean Energy Collective is a for-profit company that builds and operates medium-sized photovoltaic installations called “solar gardens.” As an electric user, you can purchase a solar panel or panels in a solar garden and receive a credit for the electricity the panels produce.

The basic idea is the same as a solar installation on your own roof, with a few advantages:

  • The PV array is located in a suitable location, free from any trees or other potential obstructions.

  • You don’t have to modify your home or business.

  • You own the panels, but don’t need to own a home, so renters can buy and support renewable power too.

  • CEC will maintain the panels, inverters, and so on for the life of the installation.

Last Saturday I joined about 30 other people at the company’s Cowdery Meadows site for a tour. This 500 kW project uses 2016 photovoltaic panels, and is located outside Boulder, near Superior, Colorado.

More info:

Clean Energy Collective

Solar Gardens Community Power

Summit Daily

solar installation, photovoltaic, renewable energy

Mke Dow of Clean Energy Collective talks with attendees at the Cowdery Meadow solar garden facility.

Energy Efficiency and the Urban Forest

Where do energy efficiency and the urban forest converge? In the following two reports, but in seven cities in the U.S. also.

energy efficiency, energy saving

The most energy efficient cities in the U.S.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released its city energy-efficiency scorecard. The scorecard ranks the country’s largest 34 cities on five criteria:

  • local government
  • community initiatives
  • buildings
  • energy, water, utilities, and public benefits programs
  • transportation.

The top-scoring cities for energy efficiency

The top scoring cities are scattered around the country:

  • Boston
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco
  • New York
  • Seattle
  • Austin, Texas
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Minneapolis
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Denver

The report is available here. It’s interesting to learn how these cities are making progress.

I noticed that seven of those 11 cities are also in American Forests’ list of top cities for urban forests. As neither energy efficiency nor urban forests just happen by good fortune, it would seem likely that both results are the result of policy. They’re deliberate.

What are the best cities for treehuggers?

American Forests’ 10 Best list is based on 6 main criteria.

The top-scoring cities for energy efficiency and urban forests

Those seven cities at the top of both lists are:

  • Portland, Oregon
  • New York
  • Seattle
  • Austin, Texas
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Minneapolis
  • Denver

As I wrote in “4 Ideas for Greener Cities,” our urban forests are crucial to making our cities greener, as they:

  • sequester carbon
  • improve air quality
  • moderate heat and save energy
  • moderate high winds
  • filter water and moderate erosion
  • increase real estate values
  • as well as providing benefits to people such as calming us and helping us slow down a bit.

You’ll also find quite a lot of info about increasing home energy efficiency using trees and other plants in our book, “Creating A Sustainable Home: Fast, Cheap, and Easy Ways to Save Energy and Money.”

Great News About Energy and Environmental Restoration

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From an environmental standpoint, there’s plenty to be concerned about. But there’s also great news about energy and environmental restoration. Filmmaker John Liu’s “Green Gold” shows the remarkable restoration of degraded areas in China and Ethiopia. The speed with which degraded landscapes can be stabilized then improved is surprising.


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Amory Lovins’ article from August 15 debunks critical accounts of Germany’s success in using renewable energy. Germany produced nearly 25% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2012. Great to learn what works.

The Suburbs and Permaculture

farming in the suburbs

The suburbs offer an outstanding—and obvious—opportunity for for food production and permaculture.

Here’s a good overview of the potential marriage of the suburbs and permaculture for growing food, similar to this post. With abundant lawn area in many suburban developments, people can easily grow much of their own food. Or they can share space, rent space, or trade space with people who want to grow food. Water is available through wells or city water. And the land area that could be used is huge.

A NASA researcher estimated that lawns in the U.S. are the most-irrigated “crop” in the nation. “Even conservatively,” Milesi says, “I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn.” Read the article here.

Here’s what we could have:

veg garden - peas growing like crazy


CSA delivery by bike

CSA delivery by bike in Seattle.

Some areas may even be close enough for bicycle delivery of the veggies!


In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars

alley, laneway, infill

In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars.

San Francisco’s Living Alley Project. In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars. Great idea for making useful space for people, rather than cars. Looks like a low-cost strategy for a pleasant space. Street party?

About the Commons

the commons, Kaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote this though-provoking post about “the commons,” why they’re important, and what works. Interesting to tie together the commons and sustainability.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture